Martin Schoeller@martinschoeller

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Martin Schoeller

Religion: Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Dr. Kelly Murphy Mason:" As a school girl, I thought I would be a nun but I was very young then (Laughter). As I got older and understood some of social doctrine of the Catholic Church, it became problematic for me.
I had taken a class in college about transcendentalist thought in America and went looking for a nineteenth century Unitarian Church. It was the first time that I'd ever felt so at home in a church.
Now I'm the community minister at the First Unitarian Universal Society in Brooklyn.
We use Hebrew Scriptures and a Christian Bible and we also use a lot of poetry. Transcendentalist scriptures by Emerson and Thoreau are certainly our sacred texts, Walt Whitman too.
Our tradition is that revelation is ongoing. The idea that God is still speaking, that we shouldn't put a period where God has put a comma. I look for all the places where the Divine might be spoken. So I've used poems, I've used a feminist collection of essays, I've used New Yorker pieces, I've preached from all kinds of texts.
Each congregation calls its own minister, and each minister has the freedom of the pulpit.
There's no strict theology.
A lot of the work that's been important for us denominationally has been around Black Lives Matter and confronting systemic and institutionalized racism in the U.S. We incorporate reason and science into our religious worldview.
Each church usually has a covenant that is says every Sunday. My favorite covenant starts, love is the doctrine of this church and service is its law. And then it goes on to talk about truth and helping one another to the end that all souls may grow into harmony with the divine. I think of that covenant as being the central articulation. We're not preoccupied with who the saints are and who the sinners are 'cause we're all a mixture of both. The idea is to have spiritual humility, that we are souls who are walking together through this world.
There are parts of the Bible that say that God is love and there's a life in love, life in God. You could understand that to be a call for gay liberation.
I think love is love is love, right?


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Orisha Lucumi

Dr. Marta Moreno Vega:“My family believed in Spiritism and in African Diaspora divinities that originated in West Africa and traveled throughout the process of enslavement into the Americas. And my parents, being from Puerto Rico, practiced the traditions of their ancestors.

We worship as a family. We worship and acknowledge that nature is sacred and that nature is the source of all life. To honor life, to honor humanity, to honor each other as sacred.

Our text is the Ifa, the divination, and Odu, the philosophy. One person is not one, one person is many because we all honor each other. We believe the spirit lives, it continues to live. As long as memory exists, spirit lives.
As soon as you're born you're preparing for physical death. In your life you honor the spirits that came before you, you honor your spirit, you honor the spirit of others so that in your journey your spirit is always enlightened with your life's accomplishments.
Every aspect of nature is a god or a goddess. So it's infinite. Right now you have the process of pollution, you have the process of climate change because we haven't honored nature.
In nature everything is regenerating. Nothing is constant. It's always changing. So that's what life is. It's a process of change, it's a process of activation, deactivation and it's circular, if you will.

I think that worshipping is the practice that you do daily. It's the process of meditation, the process of centralizing yourself.


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Renewal Judaism

Rabbi David Ingber: “Our community worships with incredibly inspiring music, with movement and with relevant messages. Our worship style is a mixture of traditional Jewish liturgy, silent meditation and chant.
My faith tells me to love and to see each and every human being as holy, as deserving of dignity and respect. My faith also commands me and invites me to see the world as broken but beautiful.
The core teaching of our faith is both in the Shema, the prayer of unity, that the world is unified, and the commandment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
I think what motivates me with in the Torah is the sense of the presence of God, the presence of love, and also the requirement to see that presence in all things and then to act in a way that would respect and honor that. To choose love over fear, to choose unity and dignity over division and degradation. To build a world of love.
My personal believe is that there is some thing that remains even after the body dies. But we prepare for living the life after death by living in this world, to make this world heaven. Heaven is here on Earth, said Tracy Chapman.
Romemu, the community I started, means to elevate. So Romemu is a community for elevated Jewish life. We don't affiliate with any one of the denominations, we are everyone-friendly, regardless of who you are, what your religious tradition is, what your gender is, what your sexual orientation is.
We believe truth doesn't just belong to one religious tradition. I have read widely in all the religious traditions and I still practice yoga and other eastern spiritual traditions like meditation, Buddhism.
We are open to same sex marriage, we are open to all love. When people in our community love one another that's the greatest affirmation of faith. Love is risky and it is transformational.”


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Episcopal Church
Kathleen Lyles:“ In my parish, Christ of St. Stevens, we worship according to the Book of Common Prayer.
My favorite part of the Bible is the Gospel of John. It tells us that there is more to life than we can see, that mystery is a part of our life and that we shouldn't despair of all that we see is bad because there is more going on than we are in control of. God is in control, it ultimately is not about us. We're not saved because we're good, we're saved because God is good. And so to just keep our faith in a good God who loves us in spite of our faults and frailties is our job.
My faith is the well from which I draw the water of grace that sustains me.“


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Kabala
Karen Berg: I grew up totally secular. I had no religious tradition. By the time I was seven years old I knew that there was a force beyond me. What it was had no name. So I found what you call faith, I guess, when I was a kid. I just didn’t know what to call it.
I now worship at the Kabala Center. We do prayer, we do a lot of singing in service, we do reading of the scroll called the Torah. It's ritual, there’s ritualistic things that are being done there. The center is based on spirituality, which is, I think, above the ritual. My faith tells me that if I want kindness, I need to be kind. And if I want compassion, I need to be compassionate. So basically our faith says that what comes out of your mouth is more important than what goes into your mouth. The Zohar is the main text of Kabalistic study. It was written by the time of the destruction of the temple. And it is the foundation for the study Kabala, which is the esoteric part of the five books of Moses. We believe that we incarnate and therefore we believe there is life after death. We believe there is something called the law of conservation of energy that says that energy never disappears, it changes form but it never dissipates. Our soul is part of that energy light and that the soul itself, that energy that gives us the life force, never dies. It simply goes onto another part of its journey. You can call it God if you like. We call it light, energy. And this light, this creator, is all-inclusive and manifests in many ways but for us there is only one real creative force. Human beings are holy to each other or should be. Anyone can learn Kabala, anyone can be a part. The restriction is only as much or as little as you choose to give to it. When I was very young I was very close to losing faith before I found Kabala.


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Eckankar

Chad Deluca: " My parents were members of Eckankar, I was born into it. We have Eck Light and Sound services. It's similar to Christian services where a cleric who comes in, there's a topic that is being discussed and we all sing the Hu together, which is a spiritual exercise. In Eckankar, for me, prayer is introspective, asking for guidance, for clarification or for providing gratitude. Some people think prayer is about trying to navigate an outcome. People say, I want this. We never do that. When you're doing quote/unquote prayer, or spiritual exercises like we do, we're going within ourselves to connect with our highest state of being and to connect with God which we are all a part off..
We have a text that's called The Shariyat-Ki-Sugmad. The text was created from different dialogs with different spiritual teachers over the course of time. The religion itself was founded in 1965.
Saint Paul studied things that were basically Eckankar. He talked about the third and fourth heaven. People can do spiritual exercises and experience higher levels of consciousness.
Fear controls people and it causes people to worry and it causes people to lash out. But in Eckankar, a lot of things are allowing you to gravitate more towards love versus fear.
Death, in Eckankar we call it translate. Translate means going from one state of consciousness to the next. There's no end. We believe we're a soul, and each soul is a particle of God. So God isn't a person that's controlling everything, it's a life source that we're all a part of.
Time in terms of our human consciousness is an illusion. Time is existing in multiple kind of dimensions so you can go to the past and you can go revisit things. People have déjà vu, right? Déjà vu is because the higher states of consciousness are projecting down. Dreams are a type of spiritual exercise.
There is more than what’s just here.“


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Nation of Islam

Abdul Hafeez Muhammad: "My mother was a Jehovah’s Witness, my father was a 33rd degree Mason and they gave birth to a Muslim minister. I don't know how that happened. [laughter] I came up in the streets of Brooklyn. One of my brothers that I grew up with introduced me to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan with an audiocassette tape. And when I heard his preaching and teaching and the bearing of witness of God and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and his defense of black people and his love for that which is right for every human being, it attracted me. And there was my journey into the Nation of Islam. I went to one of the mosques and struggled for a moment, saying that I'm God, I would later learn that I am, I'm just a little g, not the big G, so therefore I have to fall in and to submit to protocols, reforms, and laws. It took some adjustment but I did. Our regional mosque of the east coast region is Muhammad Mosque Number Seven in Harlem. I'm a Muslim who's in the streets, that's my main worship. Jesus said that he would be in the highways and the byways to reach the people in Palestine. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was in the streets of Mecca and Medina, warning the people against idolatry. I pray to the almighty God whom I say His proper name is Allah, which means the all wise, the all one, the true and living god that all life comes from, the creator of all living things. God created me and He created you and He called us forth for His service, and my faith tells me to accept my own and be myself. I'm a student of all of the scriptures. I'm a Muslim, I'm a Christian, I'm a Jew, I'm all of that as my leader and teacher Minister Farrakhan has taught me that we are the same. God it the author of peace and that’s what it is to be a Muslim. Jesus says in the Bible, “He who seeks to keep his life shall lose it. But he who seeks to give it, shall have everlasting life." It doesn't mean die, it means in the service of others. So that's how we touch the lives of others to make their lives better. The knowledge of God, the knowledge of other than self."


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Orthodox Judaism .

Rabba Sara Hurwitz: We grew up traditional in South Africa and would go to synagogue, we would have Friday night meals together. It was very cultural. Everybody called themselves Orthodox but were not necessarily practicing Jews. The person who brought it alive for me is my aunt. She is just a person filled with joy. And I watched how much she loved and embraced being Orthodox specifically. She was the only religious person in my family. And when I was a little girl, I just said I want to be just like my Aunt Judy. I worship at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx. We call it the Bayit, which means home. It's an Orthodox synagogue servicing all Jews. I pray daily and try to dialogue and talk with God. But worship is not only about prayer and liturgy, it's about being part of a community, it's about a religion focused on action and giving back and kindness. And so I think all of those things are about worship, about how you live your life. Our central text is called the Torah, but we are not only a people of the Torah we are also a people of rabbinic tradition. And so the idea is that our faith evolves and grows as time goes on. It's a religion that is meant to have multiple interpretations.The way that I interpret law is based on some standard interpretations but I think it is also seen through a more modern lens. Being able to live a spiritual life gives my life meaning. Not everybody needs it but I think for me personally I think that having something to believe in grounds me and gives me a rallying point to bring my family and our community together because we have a joint purpose of living a fulfilled meaningful life. Some people naturally have faith, some people really work on finding that sense of faith every day. I think about the Book of Job where in his darkest days he was angry at God, he engaged with God in a combative way, but he still engaged. I think about that often at times that are dark and confusing. I don't see God as a super hero image but an entity which to grapple and to struggle with.


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Orthodox Church in America

Archbishop Reverend Michael Dahulich: "I grew up as an Orthodox Christian. My mother used to read the Bible to me when I was in her womb. I served as an alter boy as a kid, so it was always part of my life. It's all that I can ever remember.
Now I have sixty parishes so every Sunday I'm somewhere different, my cathedral is in Manhattan on 2nd Street.
The main service of our tradition is the liturgy and it's obviously centuries old. It's primarily done with choral music, it's sung and centered around the Eucharist, what Jesus celebrated at the Last Supper.

My faith tells me to love God with my heart and with my mind. I think the kind of thoughts He would want me to think. And in my actions I try to do the things that He would want me to do as it's revealed in the scripture.
We see in other human beings, an image, an icon of Jesus Christ. Even though we may not share the same faith, we're still brothers and sisters in the image and likeness of God.
The Nicene Creed was written in 325 and 381 by the whole Christian Church. We retain that Creed unchanged to this very day. The source of it is the Old Testament and the New Testament, but the synthesis, the text of our faith is the Creed. We believe in a Trinitarian God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, one God. And Jesus is the son of God who became flesh so he's also human.
We believe that Christ died and rose again, and we share in His victory over death. And so we unite ourselves with Christ so that it will be by His grace, mercy and love that we would spend eternity with God in Heaven.
You know, when I graduated from Seminary, I got married to a beautiful woman, ordained a priest and was assigned to my first parish. Twenty-nine days after we were married I was in a car accident with my wife and she was killed. If I didn't have my faith, if I didn't have a God to pray to in my sadness and my depression, if I didn't have the love of Jesus Christ to keep me on a path of life, I don't know where I would have been. I knew that her death was not the end of everything and I needed to go on and live a life that would one day bring me in the same kingdom with Her."


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Vodou

Mambo Dowoti Desir: "I realized many years ago I possessed knowledge of things that I wasn’t consciously appropriating. I dreamt of things with a certain level of consistency. I was forced to have conversations with other people in African based religions to understand who and what I am, which is a high priest in Haitian Vodou. Our religion is an eco-theological one, which means that it’s very closely tied to nature. I may have to go to a river, the woods or the ocean to say prayers and to make offerings. We embrace earth, air, fire, water and minerals and pay homage to those elements, as well as to our ancestors. If you come to a Vodou ceremony, we’re singing, we’re dancing, we make sacred items that we are initiated with, that is in fact a form of prayer. My faith tells me to think about others before myself. We know one god, Bon Dieu, but there are multiple manifestations of god. Dozens of escorts which are spiritual masters and each of those nations of spirits have their particular paths. There are spiritual marriages where an individual makes a commitment to marry a spirit. There’s an actual wedding ceremony with witnesses, a contract and you are given instructions. All the Iwa [spirits], they’re like human beings. They have their food, they have their favorite colors. And so you prepare food for that Iwa. If they like flowers, you bring flowers for that Iwa. If they like to have a shot of rum every so often, you give them a shot of rum. You are also to live your life by what that spirit represents. Hollywood has painted these terrible pictures of zombies and people killing animals all the time. I know everyone I encounter has this very bizarre idea of who and what I am. Vodou has always been stigmatized as oh, it’s the illiterates who practice this. These are the peasants who do this. And when I started to analyze why, the more I understood the nature of economic oppression and political suppression. I resisted the trap of rejecting my own culture. So I fully embrace it.“


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Sunni Islam
Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid: I was born in the segregated south. My family was and still is predominantly Baptist. I moved to New York as a young child and just around the time I was graduating from high school, I became curious about other expressions of faith and started doing independent comparative religious studies. At the age of twenty I was guided to Islam and became a Muslim. I'm sixty-six years old now and am the leader of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem.

I worship by striving for sincerity. And through the things that are common particularly in the Abrahamic tradition, you know fasting, prayer, charity, pilgrimage. Those are our primary though not only duties of worship.
In Islam, we are striving to be obedient to Almighty God. We try to lead what I once heard a Catholic priest describe as a worshipful existence. And I love that, when I heard him say that, I said yeah, I relate to that.
The holy Koran, is a book of laws as well as a book of faith. The central message is to have reverence for Almighty God.

My predominantly Christian family respects my faith. Friends of mine who are religious leaders have said to me that most people are nominally whatever. If they're Christian, they are nominally Christian, nominally Jewish. My family is no exception to that, so they respect anybody who is trying to be religious.
Years ago I spoke at the United Nations with a Shia, a scholar, and he said during his lecture that there is less difference between a religiously observant Sunni and a religiously observant Shia than there is between a Catholic and a Protestant.
I once heard former U.S. President Jimmy Carter speak and he said that most global conflicts that appear to be religious in nature, in actuality have very little to do with religion. It's just groups of people who might have different religions, but are really fighting over the usual things, political influence, economic power, stability, natural resources...I believe that and that's what I have found during the course of my life.


Martin Schoeller

Religion: Kemetic Spirituality

Jabari Osaze: I was actually raised Roman Catholic but always had an interest in history and when I got to college I concentrated on ancient Egyptian history and I remember saying to my mom, 'someone should be practicing this'. Anika Daniels-Osaze: I took a course in Egyptian hieroglyphics and learned how to write and read the language. And that's when Jabari and I started talking to each other.

JO: Anika is a linguist and I've been focused mostly on history and architecture, together it works very well. I began worshiping at a shrine in Brooklyn and was initiated later into a shrine called the Shrine of Ptah in Harlem and now we are chief priests. We are like pastors, we have a community of people that we are responsible for. We are equal co-chief priests and run the shrine together, we conduct weddings, we do funerals. In our worship, we do some things that are very similar to what you're familiar with. I mean, we pray, we meditate, we chant. We read our version that seems like the ten commandments, the forty-two laws of Maat. These are guidelines that were set out thousands of years ago, that tell you how you should live, about your relationship with people, what to do in order to be sacred.

AO: We believe in one creator, or one creative force, but that force has different names based on the attributes that you're trying to channel at the time. Some people misconstrue it and think that we're polytheistic, but it's really just when you need a certain type of energy to function, you call the name that you think will give you that energy. We believe that you're a part of the creator, that means you have some of the same attributes of that creative force, that's why we say that we're divine people. We don't believe that we're gods, but if the creator created you, then you have some aspects of the creator. So as you channel that divine energy within you, it helps you deal with some of the challenges that you have on this earth.
There is no separation between secular and spiritual. Everything you do is a spiritual act, even if it's going to work, communicating with other people. You shouldn't separate the two.